Aryelle Wall recently returned from a vacation you wouldn't normally expect a 19-year-old to take. She didn't lie on the beach or sit in smart cafés sipping fancy coffee; she volunteered in Cambodia with Operation Christmas Child.
Operation Christmas Child, organized by Samaritan's Purse International Relief, is a program that delivers shoeboxes to children in crisis around the world. The shoeboxes are filled with school supplies, hygiene items, toys and hard candy. The packages are collected through donations and then packed, shipped and distributed by volunteers.
Aryelle has been involved with Operation Christmas Child for over a decade now, helping to pack the boxes at her church. She asked the local organizer, Melanie Watt, how she could help distribute the boxes overseas and was referred to the website. Once she had reviewed all her options, she chose to volunteer in Cambodia for two weeks.
Aryelle's father, Cpl Wall, is currently posted at 4 Wing. Her parent's volunteerism and involvement in the community has helped to inspire her. "I think that part of (the reason I wanted to volunteer) is because of the military. I travelled so much that it gave me a bug to travel…If I'm going to travel somewhere, I might as well be helping."
The boxes were handed out in a one-room school house in Cambodia. Volunteers played games and sang songs with the children before handing out the boxes. All the children waited patiently to open their box until everyone had one, but it wasn't long before they were all playing with their brand new toys! Many parents also approached the volunteers to say thank you, Aw ko-oon in Cambodian.
"Some of these kids have never, ever gotten a gift in their life," explained Aryelle. "It's fun, anyways, giving someone a present. But getting to give someone a present, who doesn't ever get one, you can times that joy by ten. It's so much fun."
Aryelle did more than hand out Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes during her 'vacation.' She also assisted with eyeglass clinics, water filter installations and other projects.
"At one point we were driving, and while we were going down the road, the kids we had been playing with…saw me and started yelling, they were so excited to see me. They booked it to the side of the road to wave and say hi again. For the next ten minutes, there were kids all along the side of the road waving and yelling. That was when I just about cried, I wanted to take them all home," said Aryelle.
If you would like to donate to Operation Christmas Child, a collection centre will be set up at the Tri-City Mall on November 22 and 23 from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, November 24 from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and November 25 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. If you would like more information about the project, please visit samaritanspurse.ca.